Friday, June 28, 2013

Goodbye Nes, Goodbye Skagaströnd...

I am leaving Nes and Skagaströnd today and it feels like I am tearing myself away. This place has gotten under my skin deeply and I can tell I am not done here or in Iceland. After I've had some time to think about this experience I will write more. In the meantime, here are a few last photos of this incredible little town and surrounding area.

And, I know I will be back...

Please visit my Flickr to see all my Skagaströnd pictures.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Studio Farewell

I packed my studio this morning...never an easy thing to do. I will miss this space very much and hope to recreate at least a small part of it, or even the feeling, back in the U.S. I can't bare to part with the things I've collected so I have my yellow buoy, a bag of dirty rope, and a box of objects including that incredible horse jaw bone tucked in my suitcase. I am bound to get some good looks from customs on my way out and, hopefully, no more than that! Here are a few final pictures from last Saturday's open house...

More on Flickr.

Thanks for reading.


Last week I posted a glimpse of a new embroidered necklace and now here it is in full view along with its companion pieces. I call this new series "Alone/Together" and each necklace is made of wool sweaters scraps I found stuffed in a garbage bag here at Nes. I love working with what I have and using materials that echo my environment. I felt compelled to work with these pieces as soon as I found them, which, I think, was the first week I was here. I tried some different things out once June arrived but nothing seemed quite right. Even when I started stitching together the first necklace I continued to struggle. I knew it would require a lot of time and I was feeling impatient. I also knew I did not have enough thread and, although I usually like the challenge of using what's available, the lack worked against me. I tried negotiating a compromise as both limitations felt bigger than they actually were. However, one evening very late at night I knew I had to push forward, I knew I had to commit to the time and to obtaining more thread. So the next day I jumped in a friend's car and drove to Reykjavik just so I could go to Erla for more white DMC floss. Over the course of a few more nights I stayed up very, very late. As I stitched I knew I wanted to make a third piece, but there wasn't a third sweater pattern. I struggled with this for a bit, too, but finally decided to try combining the patterns as alternating links. This final piece will be three times as long as the first and feels rather decadent to wear even as a work-in-progress. I will complete it when I return to the U.S.

I realize now these necklaces are all about the forgotten, the discarded, the unused...They are a vestige of something that once was and I find all of this incredibly appealing and relatable. By turning these throw-aways into jewelry, I'm giving them identity and purpose and I'm remembering them. They are further inspired by the iconic Icelandic wool sweater itself, the cold weather I have experienced here, and the stark color palette of my surroundings.

The pieces measure approximately 66" x 3"x 3", 120" x 3" x 3", and 204" x 3" x 3".

More images on Flickr.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Júní Opið Hús

my space

The Nes June Open House happened on Saturday. My fellow residents and I all did something special for the event: Rebeca Mendez and Adam Eeuwens had some film and photographs on view, Yogan Muller created an installation, Marianne Bernstein and John Heron built a 10' x 10' x 10' cube that will move around town as a public art space, and Ellen Mueller showed video of a performance piece. I added new pieces and did some rearranging in my space and tried to create a final presentation to celebrate my time at Nes. I will show more detail views and new work tomorrow...

visitors and artists talking to Rebeca and Adam


the cube by Marianne and John


More pics on Flickr.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Total Immersion

I spent the day in Blönduós last Wednesday and surrounded myself in textiles. I went to Heimilisiðnaðarsafnið (Textile Museum) first and was there for four hours. (I also visited the week before but found an hour and a half was simply not enough time.) I looked at everything, and I mean everything, very, very closely. I took tons of photos and did some research, thinking, and writing. 

There are many things I love about this museum: the collection is rich and well-curated and organized thematically, presenting a story of textiles in Iceland from traditional costumes complete with jewelry to the production and use of wool to lace and other finely detailed stitched pieces to contemporary works by Icelandic artists. There is also a section dedicated to the collection of Halldóra Bjarnadóttir, an early Icelandic feminist, one might say. She was dedicated to helping women and was also an avid collector of textiles and textile-related tools. You can also touch everything, normally unheard of in museums, but there is a basket of white cotton gloves available as you walk in the door.

Halldóra at 35

About half-way through my visit, I was able to meet with the director of the museum, Elín S. Sigurðardóttir. We had a very nice time talking and getting acquainted. I really liked how she spoke about the importance of patrons being able to touch things on display, that it helps with understanding and appreciation. I completely agree. I also had a great visit with Margrét Arna Vilhjálmsdóttir, who works at the museum and who studied textiles in school. We got to talk a lot about textiles, making work, the museum, and Iceland.

Next I went to Textílsetur Íslands (The Icelandic Textile Center) to work on the Vatnsdæla Saga tapestry, a 46 meter (!) embroidery begun by Jóhanna Erla Pálmadóttir. Jóhanna gave me a short lesson on how to make the different stitches and then set me to work as she sat across from me and also worked. It felt very special to learn from her and to work side by side on her piece. I am going back to Blönduós tomorrow to finish the boat.

Finally, I taught my basic embroidery class at the Textile Center, which I wrote about yesterday. It was so much fun and a wonderful way to end my day of total textiles immersion.

I posted lots and lots of new photos on Flickr.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ég var Kennarinn

That title means "I was the teacher..." I taught two hour-long, basic embroidery classes last week, one here in Skagaströnd at the Nes studios and the other in nearby Blönduós at the Icelandic Textiles Center. I started with the running stitch and ended with my personal favorite, the colonial knot, with couching and satin stitch in between. All together I showed nine stitches and also talked about separating and blending thread. It was a challenging experience to teach embroidery for the first time, to have only one hour to do it, and to teach a group of mostly Icelanders, both adults and kids. But, it was so much fun and reminded me just how much I love to teach! I had a palm reading the other day and was delighted to learn my hand says I am "great teacher." I think that's the kind of thing one wants to hear in those moments!

I am looking forward to the teaching gigs I have lined up for when I return to the US...

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Glimpse

I've been working on stitched jewelry the last few weeks with many false starts and a challenging block, but I think I've worked through all that now. I completed a piece this morning and have already started a companion piece. Here's just a glimpse...I'm not quite ready for the big reveal as I need more time to think about what's going on...more soon.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Teaching in Iceland!

announcement for the class

I just got an unexpected opportunity to teach some classes here in Iceland! On Wednesday and Thursday of next week I will lead a basic embroidery class in Skagaströnd and in Blönduós. I will demonstrate a variety of stitches including line stitches, filling stitches, and knots. I will also introduce a different materials and show how to separate and blend thread. After my demos students will have a chance to try the stitches themselves and work with me individually as needed.  Here's a translation of the announcement:

*Basic Embroidery Class with textile artist Amy Tavern (USA)

Amy Tavern is a textile artist and jewelery maker. Amy is here at Nes
Artist Residency for May and June, during her artist residency she will give
2 classes to teach some basic embroidery to anyone who would like to
join in! The class is free, but you need to bring some things to use.
Please email Amy before Tuesday 18 June to tell her you will come to the
class. Amy will then email you a list of what you need to bring.

The 2 classes will be at Skagaströnd and Blönduós.

Wednesday 19 June
5:30 - 6:30
Nes Artist Residency (Fjörubraut 8)

Thursday 20 June
6:30 - 7:30
Icelandic Textiles Center

I am so pleased to have this opportunity and look forward to spending time with locals from both communities as well as some of my fellow resident artists. 

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


traditional Icelandic costume with jewelry

I finally made it to the Textiles Museum and the Textiles Center in neighboring Blönduós. The museum was closed for the winter until June 1 and I've been trying to get some time with the very busy Jóhanna Erla Pálmadóttir, director of the Textiles Center. What an amazing day it was! I went to the Textiles Center first and was greeted by intern/artist and my new friend, Ashley Lamb. She showed me around the Center which was once a school for women and now serves as an artist residency. The building is lovely with original furniture and beautiful light. Then I met Jóhanna and we had a nice talk and organized the embroidery class I will teach there next week. (More on that tomorrow!) After a long walk around town, I went to the museum and was blown away. I had read that it was a great place, but I really had no idea. So many exquisite things: traditional costumes complete with jewelry, more historical clothing, lace and embroidered pieces, blankets, tapestries, more jewelry, and wonderful antiques. I was overwhelmed and quite moved--to be in Iceland working on embroidery and to visit a place like this, as well as the Textiles Center, is incredibly meaningful to me.

weaving looms at the Textiles Center

some lovely chairs at the Textiles Center

the Vatnsdæla saga tapestry, a project of Jóhanna's at the Textiles Center--anyone can help stitch and I will make my mark next week

a contemporary installation at the Textiles Museum

thimble and case at the Textiles Museum, part of the collection of objects that once belonged to Halldóra Bjarnadóttir

antique lace at the Textiles Museum

I will go back to the museum next week to spend more time and really look closly. The hour and a half I allowed there just wasn't enough.

More pics on Facebook and Flickr.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Get Away

The first time I visited Reykjavik I went on a little hunt to find all the street art pieces mentioned in a post on Hyperallergic by Ben Valentine...this elephant means I have one more to go! 

I went to Reykjavik on Thursday and Friday of last week and got my fix of art and culture, graffiti and street art, and of course, jewelry. Throw in the Icelandic Tattoo Convention, really good food, and some excellent city hi-jinx with friends and you have one amazing get-away. Here are some highlights:

This was my first time seeing Olafur's work in person and I loved it. The series of photos of Icelandic huts was my favorite--the intimacy of each hut paired with the rather scientific documentation and the grid arrangement...very appealing to me.

Another artist who's work I had not seen in person before...The specific arrangement or presentation of the objects peeked my interest first. Then Clive's use of found materials "as is" and also made into new things caused me to consider the materials' original intent and invented forms.

The window display drew me into this little shop and the fishbone jewelry pulled me in closer.

I had read about this shop when doing my pre-trip jewelry research and it was great to visit--lots of variety with the common thread of simplicity and exquisite craftsmanship. I especially liked the lace pieces.

lava fields on the way back to Skagaströnd
I haven't been able to stop thinking about the lava fields since the first time I saw them from the bus all those weeks ago. On this trip I was able to climb around a bit and experience opposites at work--jagged and rough volcanic rock covered in soft and spongy moss. Amazing.

I will be staying an extra week in Reykjavik before I return to the US and I am looking forward to spending more time there. 
It really is a wonderful little city.

More images on Facebook and Flickr.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happiness = A Walk with My Camera

I was out for a walk recently after not walking for a few days due to bad weather and a non-functioning camera when I realized just how happy I am when I'm walking and taking pictures. It's one of my favorite things to do and one of my happiest times during the day. I love wandering, seeing new things or the same things in a different way, and then documenting my observations in photographs. I have no technical or aesthetic training in photography and I prefer using a simple point-and-shoot digital camera. I take hundreds, even thousands, of photos and I believe I have gotten better at it through all this looking and shooting. I have also grown to adore taking pictures.

I looked at my Flickr stats the other day and realized I have uploaded over 10,500 photographs: pictures of travel and things that inspire me, pictures of my work and my process, and pictures of teaching and student work, among many other subjects. Over 10,500! I really try to edit my photos and only post the best ones on Flickr and the best of the best on Facebook. I do hope you will take a look!

I am off to Reykjavik tomorrow to go to a number of museums and galleries and to also attend the Icelandic Tattoo Convention. I'll be back Monday with new posts and more photos, of course!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Evidence of Process

I thought you might enjoy seeing the back of the piece...I think it's pretty interesting. I also thought I would show you my pile of ends and my hands working away. All evidence of how I made the work, all important, and all deserving of some attention.

Thanks for reading.